Smiths Station Volunteer Fire Dept. cutting ties with East Ala. Medical Center

Smiths Station Volunteer Fire Dept. cutting ties with East Ala. Medical Center

SMITHS STATION, AL (WTVM) - Smiths Station Volunteer Fire Department asks East Alabama Medical Center ambulances to leave their fire stations and replace them with new ambulance provider. 

The Volunteer Fire Department's Board sent a letter to EAMC's President and CEO on Feb. 10. Click the link to read the letter.

The letter states the hospital's refusal to communicate in a professional way led them to believe the hospital was no longer working in the interest of Smiths Station citizens. The letter states EAMC's refusal to address patient care and safety issues led the board to ask EMS ambulance service to vacate fire Station 1. 

Fire department leaders claim problems began years ago when they unsuccessfully kept asking EAMC for a second ambulance to work the area, citing examples of patients waiting 45 minutes for EMS to arrive from Opelika.

In July 2012, the board asked Lifestar Response known as Care ambulances to add one of its vehicles. The fire department says the Lifestar's service has been excellent at no additional cost to taxpayers. 

Board members say additional struggles finally led them to sever all relations with EAMC's EMS services this month and set up another agreement with Lifestar for two ambulances. 

"Smiths Station Fire & Rescue is working hard to bring lifesaving resources to Smiths Station," said Daniel Sexton, fire department spokesperson. "Whether those resources be ladder trucks, fire engines, or 24-hour ALS ambulances. We are pleased to have added two additional 24-hour ALS ambulances over the last year and half without 1 cent of additional cost to the taxpayers."

East Alabama Medical Center refused to answer our questions or give us a statement.

However, we do know Lee County 911 is still dispatching EAMC ambulances to Smiths Station, while the volunteer fire department is sending Lifestar ambulances to the same call. EMS paramedics are sitting in their ambulances at nearby gas stations and other businesses near Smiths Station, since they are no longer inside the fire department using it as a base. 

Probate Judge Bill English is concerned the lack of communication means services are being duplicated while other calls are being under-served. 

Gary Long, the Lee County Commissioner serving Smiths Station had this to say about the possibility of duplicating services.

"If EMS will send this ambulance to the Beulah community then there won't be two ambulances going to the same call," Long said. "Beulah has been asking for an ambulance for a number of years with no success. The great part about one in Beulah is that it could back up Smith Station and we could back them up. It is all about communication and that is where we work so well with Care (Lifestar Response)."

Judge Bill English tells News Leader 9 he added the issue to Monday's county commission meeting, so commissioners will hear from both sides. He says she is unaware on if any action will be taken.

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